During this time of Lent, which Catholics celebrate in preparation for Easter, I have been reading and listening to so many good lectures and teachings on basic principles of how to be the best version of me, and how that leads to happiness. It really is important to pay attention to what we listen to because that is generally what becomes our reality. I've also experienced some little personal miracles this week-- these are a few things that came out of the blue exactly at the time I needed them most! And mainly because I have some of the best friends in the world! They didn't even know it, but God was using them in such a great way.
Being the best version of me is not the only thing I am responsible for in life. The second responsibility is helping others be the best version of themselves. I do that by the type of relationship I have with them. Regardless of whether or not you are a Christian, this CD "The Seven Levels of Intimacy" by Matthew Kelly is VERY eye-opening about relationships in general! He is also a business speaker so I'm sure he uses this teaching when speaking to companies like Procter & Gamble, etc. Whether or not we are married or single, young or old, we have relationships with people and according to the levels of intimacy we have with them, determines how well we can help them in becoming better versions of themselves. And how they help me to be a better version of myself!...
The 7 levels are:
1. The Cliché Level -- This is a level where you really don't know the person. "Hi, how are you?", "Fine". That is the only thing that is exchanged.
2. The Level of Facts -- "How's the weather?" We tend to stick to this level when we don't know people on a personal basis. Maybe it's banter at a cocktail party. Maybe it's just talking to people at work. Unfortunately, this can also be hurtful when relationships that should be more intimate, such as a long-time friend or a family member only shares with you on this level and nothing more. There is no trust that is being shown and definitely no love.
3. The Level of Opinions -- On this level you show respect to another and they show you respect by feeling free to voice opinions about things. At a cocktail party, it can be a conversation killer to voice an opinion when it's different than the crowd's. But in a true relationship, either with a friend, a spouse, or even your child, opinions should be freely expressed. There is no getting to any level of intimacy without this.
4. The Level of Hopes and Dreams -- Oh, how I love this level! True relationship grows when people can share what is truly inside of them, feeling safe that you will receive it and be supportive! Everyone should have hopes and dreams for their life and everyone should have someone to share these with! Do you have someone who you can tell your hopes and dreams to? Do you allow others to share their hopes and dreams with you? This is especially wonderful for a good relationship with children! Everyone needs this level of intimacy. This could also be a reason that marriages have problems. People need to feel free to share these with each other without judgement or they really lack true intimacy.
5. The Level of Feelings -- Being able to tell your best friend how you feel is a true gift of friendship. Allowing a free expression of feelings between parents and children, spouses, or close friends is how we share who we really are with someone else. Giving someone else a chance to tell you how they feel is such a gift. This is an intimate level.
6. The Level of Faults, Fears and Failures -- We all have them, yet they are hard to share with others. This level is an extremely vulnerable one. When we find relationships in which we can share these things and they will still love us, then that is very precious. Sometimes this is hard and not everyone can handle this level of intimacy. "I want you to think I am perfect, therefore I won't share where I know I've failed or what I'm truly afraid of." For Catholics, we have a wonderful Sacrament called Reconciliation where we can meet with a priest and talk about these things in a completely safe and trusting environment. We receive advice for healing and forgiveness. In marriage, we learn to forgive each other because we know we are not perfect. We can ask for forgiveness too. We are there for our children when they are scared. We help pick each other up when they try and fail. Can you imagine life without this level of intimacy? I'm afraid there are people who have and that accounts for a lot of the sadness and loneliness in the world.
7. The Level of Legitimate Needs -- Relationships with people exist because we need each other. There are things that we provide for others, and we should be able to ask for those needs. I feel comfortable asking my best friend to sit and talk with me when I need it. If she needs help with something or just needs an ear to listen to her, I'm there. Intimacy on this level means that we are paying attention to other people's needs, sometimes without them having to ask, and they are doing the same for us. God knew what legitimate needs I had this week and my friends offered them to me, before I could even share with them what those needs were! Spouses learn to be open to what their loved one needs. If this were not the case, then the relationship couldn't last when one person was being selfish and only looking out for their own needs. We are good at looking out for our children's physical needs, but do we pay attention to their emotional needs too?
Matthew Kelly also wrote a best-selling book The Seven Levels of Intimacy, where he goes more in depth and covers also the ten reasons why people don't have good relationships and how to help each other become the best versions of themselves. I will be getting the book! I hope you found this interesting enough to either listen to the CD yourself or get the book. And I hope you have someone in your life who is helping you become a better version of yourself.